Italian former spy chief cleared in CIA rendition case

Italy's former head of military intelligence Sismi Nicolo Pollari is seen in Milan, July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s highest court overturned convictions on Monday of former head of military intelligence Nicolo Pollari and his deputy for roles in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in an operation organized by the United States, a court source said.

Pollari was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison and his deputy Marco Mancini to nine over the abduction of imam Abu Omar, who was snatched from a Milan street in 2003 and flown to Egypt for interrogation during the U.S.-led “war on terror”.

In a definitive ruling, judges in Italy’s supreme Court of Cassation overturned the sentence and found that Pollari, Mancini and three agents of the SISMI intelligence service could not be prosecuted because of state secrecy laws, the source said. Court officials do not give public comment on judges’ rulings.

Twenty-two U.S. CIA members have been sentenced in absentia for involvement in the case, including the former Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady. Lady requested that Italy’s president pardon him in September last year.

Abu Omar says he was tortured for seven months after being snatched from Italy, where he was a resident, and flown to Egypt in an “extraordinary rendition” operation.

An Italian court in December convicted Omar, now in Egypt, in absentia to six years in prison on charges of international terrorism.

Reporting by Massimilano Di Giorgio; writing by Naomi O’Leary; editing by Andrew Roche